Friday 14 September 2012

Friday joke(s) - A week in Broken Barnet, updated

Brian Coleman and Tory leader Richard Cornelius

Mrs Angry sat down in the committee room at the Town Hall this evening, waiting for the Audit Committee to begin. (Full report coming along soon, and, oh boy: it was a cracker of a meeting ...)

Passing by the glass paned doors before the meeting, Tory 'leader' Richard Cornelius glanced into the room and momentarily made contact with the glinting eye of Mrs Angry. She glared at him: he looked away, quickly, and hurried along the corridor.

Cornelius has not responded to my complaint to him about Brian Coleman's repellant behaviour at Tuesday's full council meeting. He avoided making any statement of disapproval of the incident, and as reported in the local Times:

"Council leader Richard Cornelius was seen to laugh and applaud Cllr Coleman’s abrasive comments at the packed meeting in Hendon Town Hall.

In his own statement, the group leader also passed the buck, saying it was up to Cllr Coleman whether or not he apologised."

Mayor Brian Schama also failed to condemn his fellow Tory, saying only:

“Sometimes during council meetings the public gallery can become quite vociferous and this was the case on Tuesday night. However, Councillor Coleman is a very experienced politician and makes his own mind up as to what he will say. I gave him the chance to apologise during the meeting but he declined.”

Schama, in a personal email to Mrs Angry. admitted that Coleman should not have insulted residents in the way he did, but seems reluctant to express the same view in public, which is pretty shabby, in Mrs Angry's view.

What has been overlooked in this incident is that Coleman was being heckled from the gallery, but the individual who appeared to have triggered the outburst was in fact someone who has previously been the subject of Coleman's appalling behaviour, and has had a complaint about him upheld, twice, by the relevant complaints system, but has still, months later, not received from him the apology he was told to make. This is what he was demanding, from the gallery.

In my view, Richard Cornelius' behaviour in this matter is shameful, and cowardly, and proves that he is unworthy of his position as leader.

The newly emasculated complaints' system, as yet untested, will be an utter farce as he will be, as leader of his party, the ultimate judge of the merits of any case brought to him, and his comments clearly indicate he has already taken a view of the situation, in defence of his grossly insulting, blatantly remorseless colleague.

Mrs Angry will take her own form of action, which one hopes will be rather more effective.

The local press has given generous coverage to the Coleman outburst story, with full stories in the local Times.

and oh look: my own headline ... have you any idea of the mortification this has caused Mrs Angry's children? Fabulous. Made the whole experience worthwhile.

Barnet Press

and the Ham & High.

No doubt the idiotic, insulting comments he has made in his new blog about local journalism, and in particular the sexist remarks concerning female reporters, has given them every reason to give him their full attention. Oh, and now see this, in the Standard:

Oh dear, Tooting Twister: not such a good news week for Barnet Council, was it? And goodness me, we haven't even mentioned the squat yet ...

As published in the previous post, Coleman has also taken the opportunity, after his pathetic behaviour at the council meeting, and a 'robust' challenge from Mrs A in the corridor afterwards, to write a frankly raving piece about the Barnet bloggers, making the most laughable, bizarre, paranoid claims about us including allegations that we are to blame for 'criminal damage' to Conservative party offices, and worse still, an attack in the street on his 88 year old mother.

Mrs Angry is intrigued by the lack of reporting in the local press of these alleged incidents (beginning to see what you mean about the local press, Brian) will be writing to the local police to ask for further details of this alleged incidents, to see if they can help her with her enquiries. Oh, ah: unless, of course, they did not actually happen, except inside the head of Brian Coleman?

Mrs Angry has also taken legal advice, and has been informed that such remarks, in a context which clearly identifies three of the Barnet bloggers are defamatory.

Will we take action? We could, and we are told we would almost certainly win. Mrs Angry is not inclined to waste any effort on such a matter, but a professional eye is watching very carefully for any further damaging allegations. Really all one can do is sit back and marvel at the sheer lunacy of someone who can write such a load of shite, with no sense of how absurd he appears.

You may wonder, as Mrs Angry does, why it is that Brian Coleman holds his own mother in such high esteem, and yet holds such contempt for other women, denigrating professional female politicians and journalists (and bloggers), and shouting vile insults at female residents in the public gallery. There is no excuse for such an attitude, and the expression of such disrespectful remarks in someone who is an elected representative is just not acceptable.

You may wonder why Coleman has not been censured by his own leader or colleagues. Two reasons: they lack the balls to take him on, and they share his attitudes, anyway.

The position of women in the Barnet Tory group is subservient and completely without influence. The Tories on Barnet Council are dominated by a merciless, brainless male culture, one comprised largely of men with no intellectual strength but an instinctive determination to hold onto power at all costs. Women are tolerated only if they are of a certain age, (hag vintage, and upwards) and proper 'ladies', and know when to keep quiet, and do what the men in the Cabinet decree.

Just like Mrs Angry, in fact.

This week has been an extraordinary one, even by the standards of Broken Barnet, because there have also been the most incredible developments in the story of the squatters now occupying Friern Barnet Library, as reported in earlier posts in this blog and elsewhere. There is in fact ever increasing interest in the story from the media: BBC news, Radio 4, the Guardian, and even the Big Issue, no doubt due to the issue of vacant properties in a capital city blighted by homelessness.

Please note, incidentally, that the library will be open tomorrow (no need for pop up libraries outside now!) from 11 to 7, for residents to come and use the building as the Carnegie foundation intended, as a library, and not a development opportunity.

At the excruciatingly funny circle of friends meeting at the occupied library on Monday, at which senior Barnet officers were taught an important lesson in how to take part in a democratic debate by a very patient community squatter, we were informed that no legal processes had been instigated, and no 'snap decisions' would be made about such matters. This was clearly untrue, as the next day we heard that an eviction procedure had already begun.

Also at this meeting, naughty Mrs Angry mischievously raised the possibility that the former Church Farmhouse Museum, closed by the council more than a year ago, lying empty, stripped of all its exhibits, and awaiting buyers, might also be occupied by Phoenix and his friends and would that mean the officers of the council would begin negotiations for the creation of a community museum?

The reaction of the senior officers was one which Mrs Angry will remember with fondness for some time. But she had a very serious motive for making this point.

Earlier this year, at a Residents Forum, Mrs A raised a question about a lovely Edwardian park keeper's cottage in Victoria Park whose tenants, a couple with young children, were evicted years ago, and which has been left vacant and open to vandalism, deteriorating dreadfully. She asked why this property had been left open to abuse and left to rot, empty of tenants, when there are so many homeless families in Barnet. It seems there is a similar case in Oakhill Park, and seemingly others.

No response has ever been given by Barnet Property Services, but the day after the question was submitted, at last the property was secured, although of course it is still vacant.

On Saturday Mrs A visited the former museum in Hendon, and observed in horror that the lack of security meant that the Grade2* listed house was hopelessly vulnerable: grounds completely open, gate wide open, no CCTV, easily breachable entry points. What the fire preventative measures are, one can only speculate.

If this property were badly vandalised, or damaged in any way, this would be good news for the council, of course, as in its protected status it is a bloody nuisance and obstruction to the would be developer.

After her suggestion at the meeting on Monday, as she predicted, the council immediately installed new security at the Farmhouse. Better late than never, eh? A shame, perhaps, that it had not been occupied, though, and a fight made to protect this irreplaceable treasure, our only council owned museum and exhibition space, whose contents are being given away, thrown away or sold at auction. More on this in another post.

And it is rumoured that buyers have been to visit the property, so we must expect that sooner or later it will be sold, and a lovely block of flats built in the grounds, courtesy of our grubby, greedy little philistine Tory councillors.

Here is a strange ending to this story: certain interested parties have been landing on this blog with google searches indicating that they are worried about rumours of, well ... the haunting of Church Farmhouse Museum.

Mrs Angry believes that in fact there may well be something to worry about.

The side boundary of the old building is shared by the graveyard of the ancient church of St Mary's, itself said to be on the site of a Roman temple. There may well be graves under some of the grounds of the Farmhouse, as the dividing boundary appears to be relatively recent to the history of the church and house. Oh, and it was this graveyard which inspired Bram Stoker to write a scene in Dracula involving Van Helsing, a tomb, and the body of poor Lucy. Was Stoker inspired by tales told in Hendon regarding the ancient spot? Who knows. Look at this, though ...

A sight to strike fear into the hearts of would be developers everywhere ... a sighting of the Church Farmhouse ghost? A notorious old hag/blogger, escaped from the Greyhound? Or maybe a potential community squatter?

Don't say you haven't been warned ...

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